For the topic for Dec 2008 we were asked to explore generosity – what it is; what it isn’t, how it blossoms and how its many petals are displayed. I could save this one for this Dec, but the whole point to my article is we need to be generous ALL the time, not just during the “season of giving”. So Im putting this one out now, especially since in Sept the Compassionate Games begin for Compassionate cities like Winston-Salem. http://compassiongames.org/
PanGaea Revisted – Generosity on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte
‘Tis the season of generosity and altruism. The one time of year we as a collective human spirit consciously shift focus on the giving to others. Why do we do it? Because giving makes us feel good. Whether we are giving a present to someone, or food to the hungry, helping a friend move or just offering a tired cashier a warm hello and a smile, by our sharing of something we have, we feel better. We feel connected. We feel hopeful. Not hope that something will come in return usually, but rather a hope that the feeling will spread.
Human nature drives us to want to make connections to other people. We want to be close, we want to form bonds, and we want to be of help. The problem is the more a society’s technology increases, the less emphasis that society places on its upclose and IRL (in real life) social connections. So as an advanced technological society, for most of the year we Americans forget how much connection and contact make us happy. We forget how much other people matter to us. We forget how much we need others, and therefore forget how much others might need US too. Then the holiday season falls upon us, a time to reconnect, take stock in our lives, and be thankful for what we have, which I think is the key to generosity.
Generosity by definition is the ability and readiness to be giving in abundance. Well the only way people are open to giving, is if they already have a sense of fulfillment. You give time, if you have time; you give money if you have money; you give love if you have love. If you have any sense of lack, you will hoard, and our society constantly points out to us how much we lack. We aren’t thin enough, don’t wear the right clothes, eat the right food, drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, blah, blah, blah. The marketing media is constantly teaching us to want, want, want and so we consistently feel a lack, are never happy just right where we are. However during the holidays the gears are shifted and we are reminded how much OTHERS lack, how much we actually have, or how far we’ve actually come, so suddenly during the “season of giving” its easier to think of, say, running a canned food drive for the homeless or giving toiletries to a nursing home.
So how do we maintain a generous spirit throughout the year? How do we generate an altruistic nature? I think we grab every opportunity we can to share of ourselves. We purposely look at the areas in our lives where we feel fulfilled, and parlay that into an act of giving. If you wake up happy, smile and greet people, share your joy. If you are feeling particularly pretty/handsome, compliment how others look, share your confidence. If you saved $5.00 on groceries, buy that $5 bag pre-packed for the food bank, share your good fortune. It’s easy and it only takes one act, because the sense of interconnected happiness that comes when you have shared of yourself WILL snowball; and right now, during the holiday season people are more receptive to spontaneous giving and random acts of kindness and more willing to pass along the sentiment.
Now note I did use the words generous and altruistic and not charitable. Its not that being charitable isn’t a good thing too, sometimes being generous does mean being charitable, but charity, generosity, and altruism are different things. The word charity implies that the giving is directly due to a need the recipient has, its conditional. Being generous and/or altruistic is more an internal drive to care for, be connected and of benefit to others. Its something a person just is, regardless of the conditions. Its a larger quality to strive for, but one with much greater reward. So this holiday season, find the area of your life, the part of you, that you feel is rich, and share it. It’s the best gift you can give.